Shearing off from a post I made in this thread, I am curious; what would you consider “great” comedy? Films only please; I only tolerate sitcoms so far.
Seriously though, what are some of your favorite comedies and what is it about them that makes them “great” for you? For me, I tend to focus on movies with snappy, witty dialogue and humorous situations, but I abhor what I call “body humor”; i.e. any jokes involving various bodily fluids (which seem to make up the majority of more recent comedies). In no particular order, my five all-time favorite comedies include:
A Night at the Opera (the Marx brothers are always worth it)
Blazing Saddles (could never be made today, but it’s still classic Mel Brooks)
Clue (“Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage!”)
Young Frankenstein (another classic from Mel Brooks)
All of them have the snappy, witty dialogue I love in my comedies, and while there is the occasional situation with body humor (Airplane, I’m looking at you), it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the movie. I don’t tend to focus that much on the actors/actresses involved in the films so much as I do the writing; there are some really terrible comedies out there who have some truly talented comedic actors in them, much to my sorrow for them, but at least they have other films they’re in that might be good.
So, how about it? What are your favorite comedies, and WHY are they your favorites?
‘Dr. Strangelove’ and no I don’t know why it’s funny to me. I mean, I do, but really I don’t. But considering that I found it funny in high school, college, and even ten years later is noteworthy. Hell, just the on-screen charisma alone is funny.
‘Young Frankenstein’ definitely makes the list, too, for many of the same reasons!
I dunno about ‘great’, but the two movies I go to when I absolutely have to have a good laugh are Galaxy Quest and The In-Laws. The commentary track on The In-Laws is almost as hilarious as the movie. It’s Falk and Arkin, along with the director and the screenwriter, all sitting in the same room playing off each other and cracking each other up. Falk especially has the most infectious laugh.
What’s fantastic about it is that while it’s not a silent movie, it’s not a movie that’s heavily reliant about language or wordplay to get its laughs across. It’s a French film, but even so, it’s a movie that kicks down language barriers as it delivers warm, lighthearted, and endlessly enjoyable slapstick humor.
There’s no antagonist or tension; it’s about a mood, and that mood is lightheartedness. It feels very much like the perfect summer vacation.
And that jazz soundtrack that elevates the movie? What a delightful accompaniment. The main theme resonates with you long after you hear it.
It helps that Jacques Tati’s Hulot character is a fun comic character, too. There’s no mean streak to him like a Mister Bean; he’s just a likeable average guy who wants to enjoy his trip to the seaside resort. And he keeps good company with a fun assortment of supporting characters.
The tone of the film is such that I can watch it continuously throughout the year, that I can have a vicarious vacation in the summer or have it be a transporting picture in the winter.
I was coming in here to say Clue, which is, I think, a near-perfect film when it comes to comedy. But you beat me to it.
Here’s a few others though-
High Anxiety (1977) Mel Brooks’ ode to Hitchcock. The more Hitchcock you’ve seen, the funnier it is.
Buddy Buddy (1981) My favorite Lemmon/Mathau film. Mathau is a hit man sniper ready to make a kill when in the next room, Lemmon tries to kill himself. Mathau gets involved and has to keep disassembling his complicated gun whenever he helps Lemmon.
My personal favorite when it comes to the Marx Brothers is Duck Soup (1933), but I think a superior film which is similar is W.C. Fields’ Million Dollar Legs (1932), almost forgotten today unfortunately.
I would also like to nominate Ghostbusters (1984) as one of the best comedies of its era.
But my favorite comedy of all would be Bedazzled (1967), not the crappo remake, the original with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. I laugh every time I watch it.
I’m sure I can come up with a few more if I think about it.
The Big Lebowski
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This Is Spinal Tap
The Blues Brothers
Arsenic and Old Lace
A Night At the Opera
The Bank Dick
Being John Malkovich
The Court Jester
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Men In Black
Murder By Death
The Music Man
A Shot In the Dark
The Princess Bride
Some Like It Hot
The Gold Rush
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Waiting For Guffman
You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man
Plenty of great nominations here. For fans of Airplane!, I’d definitely add Top Secret!, also by the ZAZ guys.
Also, 1957’s Zero Hour was made as a tense drama, but when Airplane! riffed pretty much the entire movie, it is retrospectively a hoot.
Yes, so glad to see The 'Burbs here! One of my all-time favorites. It’s dark, but not necessarily a “dark comedy,” and the humor is … subtle, for lack of a better word. It apparently appeals to a narrow slice of people; most folks I know haven’t heard of it, and those I’ve shown it to give it a lukewarm reception.
Carrie Fisher’s tremendous talent is kinda wasted, and Corey Feldman … eh. For me, the less of either of the two Coreys, the better. Fortunately his part is fairly trivial. But Tom Hanks? Rick Ducommun? Bruce Dern, Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore? An incredible cast.
It’s among only a few comedies I’ve seen where the visuals, the witty dialog and the score are equally integral to the humor.
Blazing Saddles contains a, what, five-minute scene that is literally nothing but farting.
Ooh, I’m hoping for a Tati retrospective soon. I really want to see these in the theater.
Love the patter, and the movie, but I can’t quite shake the notion that these are awful, awful people (journalists).
I am in that minority that likes the remake, but I am not comparing it to the original. Elizabeth Hurley is not funny, but Fraser is and the supporting cast is excellent (Frances O’Connor, Orlando Jones, Toby Huss). I wouldn’t call it great and, of course, that’s the peril of doing a remake of a classic—you’re starting off with a very high bar.
I preferred that to Airplane! actually. I may have changed my mind recently but Top Secret! is under-rated.
Is it? I mean, the story is literally stopped at several points for a meta-explanation.
As a Trekkie-ride-or-die, Galaxy Quest is the best. I saw it over a Christmas holiday in a half-full theater and I could tell I was the only (or at least the only demonstrative) Trek/sci-fi fan in the place because I was howling in laughter for a good half of the run time. I felt all of that and knew these people in my bones. Loved it.
In a similar vein, Spaceballs. Just…the more you know, the funnier it is. And so eminently quotable.
And Tropic Thunder, for the sheer number of times I was caught completely off-guard and I laughed. Every. Time. I love being surprised by humor.